There are a lot of answers to the question, “How do you know you made it in business?”
Of course, all of them are subjective. However, I’ve found one that seems to be the most consistent when asking entrepreneurs what business success looks like:
“To attract clients I enjoy working with and to work with those dream clients exactly when I want to work with them.”
You no longer have to deal with late night emails and false senses of urgency, and you don’t have to “tolerate” certain engagements so your cash flow is in check. You’re operating a business you love—a business where you’re only working with clients who share similar values, push the conversation forward, are excited all the time, and respect your time and your personal life.
That’s the dream, right?
In my quest to find this business utopia, teeming with happy, excited, and respectful clients skipping around waiting to work with me at a moment’s notice, I realized something.
This is not a stage of business I seek to “get to”. It’s a level of business I need to actively create.
Instead of waiting for the perfect client, I could train my clients to be the perfect client; and that meant getting clear on what my perfect client looked like.
Now, I’m in marketing, so I have intense descriptions about my ideal client profile and game plans on how to attract them, but I didn’t account for how they acted when they started working with me.
In other words, I created the game (my business), I attracted players to the game (my clients), but I never actually created rules of the game for the players to play by.
Sure, my proposals would outline timelines, deliverables, action plans, and all kinds of other great things, but it never outlined two crucial components:
1. What were my clients’ expectations of me?
2. What were my expectations of them?
Pay particularly close attention to question number two
See, most of us have an implied answer to question number one. That’s our contract. And I encourage you to expand on it; there will be an increased level of clarity and communication if you actually have a conversation with your client about their expectations of you.
However, most of us NEVER outline the answer to question number two. The second you don’t set agreements for how your clients behave, you give up the right to complain about how they behave. Why? Because…
Frustrations are simply misplaced expectations
And if you never even communicated those expectations, it’s not on your client to behave according to them. It’s on you.
Above: My client Pam Green’s husband embraced this concept when he outlined his expectations of his students and their expectations of him on the first day of class.
You get what you tolerate
Now client agreements don’t have to be this weighty doctrine decreeing how your clients will behave colored with patronizing language.
Quite the opposite. The most effective client agreements serve to excite and inspire your clients to take action.
I run LinkedIn trainings with my clients. They are 6 modules long. The program is designed to be intense and confronting. It intentionally pushes my clients to do something they don’t want to do so they can get results they haven’t received before.
You can imagine in an engagement like this, there’s a lot of room for clients to get frustrated or self-judgmental when they aren’t “performing.”
Perfect. That’s where they get breakthroughs. So instead of allowing them to dictate how they react in these moments of severe self-doubt, I proactively address it by creating agreements like:
I promise not to spiral into a state of Analysis Paralysis, and if I’m feeling
overwhelmed, I will communicate this to the LinkedIn Strategist.
Instead of thinking, “That will never work for ME!” I will instead ask the
LinkedIn Strategist, “HOW can this work for me?”
There’s a few more about how/when to communicate and when to expect answers in return, completing homework on time, etc.; but most of them serve to keep my clients feeling happy and positive as they move through their engagement.
In turn, that makes me happy and positive when working with them.
There’s no time like the present
If you’re reading this and you think, “That will never work for my current clients, I’ll just wait until the next one,” then you’re short changing yourself.
Don’t wait to create a business that fulfills you. There is something to be said for sitting down with a “difficult” client and saying, “I’m trying on these new structures in my business. I think that they’ll really push this engagement forward. Let’s have a conversation about them and what expectations you may have for me that you haven’t communicated.”
Nine times out of ten, this will create a clearing with your current clients so you can turn frustration into action.
Remember, you created your business. You get to create how it works.
If you are feeling drained by your clients or by your work, start by creating some agreements. Once you have, message me and share how it’s worked out. If you already have them in place, comment below and share some of your favorites.